Archive for April, 2013

My Response to The Red

April 10, 2013

Thanks for the feedback. Quite useful.

“I fear the COBOL reference might be playing to a limited audience, although I guess there is something fitting to that.”

The point is that not only does nobody use COBOL, but nobody even knows what it is! Likewise, nobody in Southern California thinks that a bicycle is a mode of transporation. Look at the advocates. Most cycling advocates drive everywhere. Most pedestrians advocates drive everywhere.

There’s a gated community that is being greenwashed as “pedestrian friendly”. Haha.

http://www.onepaseo.com/
“I really like one thing that might have been expanded more: You basically led up to the idea that cycling with traffic can be seen as a predecessor to proper cycling development.”

I actually do not agree with this at all. In fact, I think it’s the opposite. There’s a LOUD (online) VC advocate who recently taught his daughter to ride. Where did he teach her? Did he have her roll down Fairmount? No. He put her in an alley where there was little to no vehicular traffic. Likewise, I think that most people who learn to ride, do so on protected or traffic calmed areas.

An example is the Danes. They did just fine in San Diego. They hated it and thought it was regressive and that if they lived here, they’d buy cars. Yet their sweet infrastructure did not hinder them from learning to ride in San Diego.

“It is something we touched on in conversation the other day. While you don’t necessarily cater to “cyclists” with infrastructure improvements, the presence of those cyclists helps increase mindshare about bikes and their place in society. How do we then balance that kind of mindshare with a message that is more applicable with the population on a whole?”

The cycling community is very small and insular. We don’t really understand how the world sees us. Interviews in DC have shown that most legislators don’t hate bicycles. This is especially true in SD. People like bikes.

There are other barriers both here and in other places than dislike of bicycles. We tend to think of people hating bicycles because the majority of interactions socially, on the road, and online with non-cyclists are negative. Anti-cyclists are very loud, but a tiny minority. Over fifty percent, in some surveys, of people want to ride some of the time but are afraid.

“There is one thing about the “anti-VC” argument that falls flat to me, however. Even if we get nice, fully separated bike routes along major corridors, we are likely to be living with shared streets for a very long time (if not forever) on side streets and residential streets. Those last 100-500 feet of travel will work more smoothly for all involved if people on bikes have at least a basic understanding of how to safely ride on a street with parallel parked cars and potentially other vehicular traffic.”

In Copenhagen there are such streets you spoke of. But it didn’t take special training nor experience to figure it out. You just took the lane and rode your bike. Speed limits were less than 15 MPH (don’t recall the number). Even if there’s an collision, this would be non-serious, most likely.

We had people tell legistators, for 40 years that we didn’t need infrastructure because we can use existing facilities. Mode share is smaller now than it was then! There is no city in the world where 40% of the population vehicular cycles. If there was then I agree that we would not need facilities. All the places which have high mode share have nice infrastructure. The more time and space spent on infrastructure, the higher the mode share. No other variable has a higher correlation. We could say that facilities are the limiting reagent in the cycling reaction. Yes, the reaction runs faster with other catalysts, but facilities overwhelm all other variables.

“It kind of comes down to the same argument as before. I want infrastructure, but I don’t think I should have to disdain skills that help me in the mean time to get it.”

Do you consider me to be a “vehicular cyclist”? Very curious on this one.

Also, I don’t disdain anyone’s skills. In fact, I don’t presume to tell anyone how to ride their bicycle. I have done research on behavior, but that’s for another day. The point is that I feel that the way that people, especially intelligent people like you, ride is up to you.

The VC notion is that there’s one right way to ride which can be found in the experiences of other cyclists. My point is that data and research should dictate best practices and that one’s personal experience is a study where n=1.

Second, there’s a bit of confusion on terminology here. There’s a style of riding that I guess you call vehicular cycling and there’s a mode of advocacy called vehicular cycling.

When I say VC, I’m only talking about the second one.

VC advocacy does not increase modeshare. In fact, Forester does NOT want to do this! He dismisses this goal as a “popularity contest”.

VC advocacy is about blocking infrastructure, increasing penalties on cyclists who do not ride VC, and getting people to take classes so that they are “educated”.

With this mindset, if you did not take a class and you get hit by a car, it’s your fault.

Sounds kind of harsh to me, but this is precisely what they say.

I believe in sustainable safety.

http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/sustainable-safety/

Note that in road design ther’s almost no consideration of safety especially to non-motorists. This is why the NHTSA and the AAA pushes for helmets, safety classes, and bright orange vests. Anything that does not admit that high speed traffic is the problem and pushes all the responsibility for dangerous road conditions and dangerous motorists onto cyclists and pedestrians. This is why we push back so hard against these things.

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Finding the Middle Ground Part: X

April 9, 2013

Below are the words of a friend of mine, The Red. Not to be confused with Red Bear.

 

Anyway, he’s smarter than I’ll let him speak for himself”

 

“I fear the COBOL reference might be playing to a limited audience, although I guess there is something fitting to that. I really like one thing that might have been expanded more: You basically led up to the idea that cycling with traffic can be seen as a predecessor to proper cycling development. It is something we touched on in conversation the other day. While you don’t necessarily cater to “cyclists” with infrastructure improvements, the presence of those cyclists helps increase mindshare about bikes and their place in society. How do we then balance that kind of mindshare with a message that is more applicable with the population on a whole?

There is one thing about the “anti-VC” argument that falls flat to me, however. Even if we get nice, fully separated bike routes along major corridors, we are likely to be living with shared streets for a very long time (if not forever) on side streets and residential streets. Those last 100-500 feet of travel will work more smoothly for all involved if people on bikes have at least a basic understanding of how to safely ride on a street with parallel parked cars and potentially other vehicular traffic. It kind of comes down to the same argument as before. I want infrastructure, but I don’t think I should have to disdain skills that help me in the mean time to get it.”

Reconciliation?

April 7, 2013

Lately, I have been wondering it it’s possible for reconciliation between infrastructurists and vehicular cyclists (I’m not going to waste time on all of their guises from now on so when I say VC, I mean Savvy Cycling, and so on. Basically, anyone who if for classes and treating bicycles as motor vehicles, is VC).

This came about due to a friend of mine who is highly intelligent, and yet considered himself VC while at the same time, he was open for bicycling infrastructure.

This made me realize that there was a HUGE communication failure on my part.

I have always felt that it was blindingly obvious that the two positions were polar opposites. It was like talking about purple smells or toothpaste that tastes like D minor. The two just don’t go together.

To paraphrase, as we are in the middle of the lane having this conversation, “What are we doing now?”

And that was the point: it would be nice to have cycle tracks everywhere, but for now, we should learn how to ride in the conditions that we are given. After all, it is how I live my own life. What could be simpler?

To sum it up, there are two belief systems in cycling advocacy. Savvy cyclists do a nice job at breaking down the differences, but they are so harsh in describing infrastructurists point of view, I feel that they have not demonstrated that they totally grasp our position.

First, I’ll explain the Vehicular Cycling position.

People are rational, intelligent, and moral beings. There are norms that our society has and if we are brought up right or “educated”, we will act in the proper way.

This view leads to talk of stricter enforcement both for cycling past stop signs and running over cyclists with Hummers. It leads to an obsession with “fault” as if there is one identifiable cause behind something so complex as a traffic collision. It leads to talk of overcoming fears and changing one’s mindset. There are smart people and stupid people as well as good people and bad people in this universe.

Sounds good.

However, studies show that humans are, for the most part, good or bad depending upon the situation. There are scientfic studies which prove this. This makes sense because we need to survive, and sometimes it’s better to be good and sometimes it’s better to violate some social norms. We have also learned that whether people are good or bad and whether they do something as pay attention while motoring has a lot to do with their environment. I thought that this was super obvious, but IF YOU BELIEVE VC PHILOSOPHY THEN THIS CAN NOT BE TRUE. If you can change your mindset or resolve to be a good person, you should automatically do the right always. There would be few traffic collisions because we always pay attention all the time.

There are many sources for this belief. A great start is _Predictably Irrational_ [http://www.amazon.com/Predictably-Irrational-Revised-Expanded-Edition/dp/0061353248].

“Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.”

The key part of this is that though humans are irrational, much of this can be predicated. This is the basis of traffic calming which among other things relies on motorists driving slower on narrower roads.

Knowing this also allows us to realize that if one builds infrastructure then people will ride on it. This is the core tenant to infrastructurism: no infrastructure no right to cycle.

The fact is that cycling is legal on all surface streets yet it’s less popular than illegal drugs. Why is this?

It’s because cycling is uncomfortable. That’s not a rational thing to say. Who cares about comfort?

Pretty much everyone which is why we sleep in beds and drive cars places and sit on couches. In fact, if one could pick a slightly higher risk with a payout of massively more comfort, we’d jump on that.

Another tenant of infrastucturism is that the main reason that people don’t feel comfortable riding their bicycles is because they don’t like to mix with high speed traffic. This is because most people have a belief that the most likely thing to kill them is a high speed car.

Studies show that this belief that people have is true.

This leads to another difference between VC and infrastructurism. (Let’s just call it the Big I.) The Big I believes that people’s emotions are good and normal. We believe that people should be rewarded for their natural behaviors. All of this requires tailoring the environment to the human being rather than recreating a human being around surviving around machines.

The way that every other hazard known to humans is treated this way except for motoring traffic. Smelting steel is done behind closed doors and only certain people are allowed on the factory floor. You don’t have office workers walking past molten steel on their way to lunch and then blame them for burned because they didn’t follow an esoteric rule nor would you comment on their black clothes nor anything else. And the helmets and other equipment would actually protect a worked in the case of an accident unlike a flimsy bicycle helmet which is useless in a high speed motoring collision.

A good example of how we should deal with machine is the iPhone vs. the punch card computer. In the 70’s computer scientists didn’t think that normal people should use computers because they were too stupid to do so. They wanted to teach programming in schools so we’d all become programmers. They went on to design languages so that business people could simply talk to computers like COBOL. Anyone know COBOL? How about those people who use an iPhone. Know any of these people? How do they use their phone? They just figured it out.

The streets should be like an iPhone. You should be able to figure it out. If you think that a certain feature means to ride in a certain way, you should be right more often than not. This is called the Princliple of Least Surprise, another tenant in the Big I.

So let the VCers teach punch cards and insist that we should all adust our clothing, our way of thinking, and our lifestyle so other people can ride in comforable machines.

At the same time, the Big I is created quieter, safer, more efficient, and more fiscally prudent environments all around the world.

When both sides are done, one will have knowledge of punch card technology and COBOL. The rest of us will be enjoying our iPhones.

Save Our Parking: Revisiting SOHO

April 3, 2013

Imagine a historic organization which totally ignores the dominant transportation forms at its time.

It’s SOHO: Save Our Heritage Organization aka Save Our Property Values and Parking.

I am too tired to look it up, but there was a recent blogger who mentioned those people who are knee jerk against development are actually, predominantly, against losing parking and having to deal with increased congestion.

That’s why the idea of good development is like the idea of a good disease. Asking what kind of development one wants is asking what kind of illness one wants to be infected with. The only answer is none.

But to ask for no development would make one a giant douche bag, a person who would not be taken seriously.

Thus, there has to be a facade.

One facade, as per _Reluctant Metropolis_, is the “tract home environmentalist”. They are those who were in favor of the freeway that cut through virgin woods. They were happy to buy a house built by a developer in a freshly exploited area. But they are opposed to the next person who wants to move in down the street because IT’S BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.

In the city, we don’t have obscure species to protect. Thus, we need a new excuse to protect our parking spaces and our space on the road. Enter history!

I laugh at this as I was once tour guide for the buildings where the country was literally founded, in Philadelphia. The history of San Diego, is the history of whore houses. I don’t mean this in a bad way: take the tour. Don’t take my word for it.

SOHO cares little for actual history which is why they don’t mention the proliferation of bicycles which occurred at the time when most of the buildings that they want to protect occurred. Their plan for Balboa Park was focused on building new roads! This does not go against their mission which primarily is focused on stopping all development projects.

“A ‘teardown’ refers to the practice of demolishing an existing house to make way for a dramatically large new home on the same lot.”

http://sohosandiego.org/reflections/2003-2/histdistricts.htm

Note that this never happens. With small lots and tiny yards, this is physically impossible. Plus who wants a large new home with no space for their car nor a lawn. This is utter nonsense.

What SOHO hates are apartment complexes and other sky scrapers. This is because they are mainly suburbanites who believe that they need a car to buy a jug of milk. Thus, new apartment means more cars. This is probably true, but it’s mainly so due the intense fight against spending any money to help alternative transportation.

In general, they are unfamiliar with real cities so they see “urban” as bad. In fact, some people even use it for code for black person which is strange.

Let’s give SOHO a real history lesson. History is about our connection to the stories of the past and it’s not to be abused by selfish property owners who fight against positive change. Let’s not focus so much on our own Disney version of history–where everyone has their own motor car (sic)–that we disallow more history to happen.

History has to live and breathe. Bicycles are our past and our future. As SOHO says,

“A historical district is not a static museum, but rather a living, changing neighborhood.”

New, transit oriented and cycling oriented housing is to be celebrated and not a “disturbing trend” as the selfish and short sighted SOHO says that it is.

Equal Citizens

April 3, 2013

LTRs can skip…

One thing I like about the ever shifting VC/Cycling Savvy/New Flavor of the Week is the notion that cyclists are equal citizens.

This is so true which is why we need to get rid of the notion of “user fees” for road building.

This is why I am against the gas tax all together. I’m OK with a sales tax on petrol. But to put it as a “user fee” is wrong.

We are all citizens of the United States and we deserve equal protection under the government. In other words, though there are jokes that cyclists are “second class citizens” we aren’t in law. There’s nothing that says that cycling deserves less treatment when it comes to road building. In fact, we deserve preferential treatment in California.

“In 2006, the Legislature passed and Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which set the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law.”

http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ab32/ab32.htm

We know under Smeed’s law and others that this will preclude any new freeway widening. It implies that people should be nudged to bike, not forced or coerced like they were forced into cars by literal death threats–“if you ride a bicycle, you are taking your own life into your own hands”.

This can be done by something as simple as closing down some roads or reallocating freeway money for cycling.

The point is that we all deserve the right to safe, convenient, and efficient mobility. There is absolutely no justification why the transportation budget does not give at least 33% of the money and real estate to active transportation. This reallocation of funds is both required by law and fair to all parties as it does not give cyclists an MORE money nor real estate than motor vehicles. Thus, we can stop the histrionic and childish “war on cars” nonsense. No, building good infrastructure is no a war, as wars kill people. Infrastructure saves lives and is the exact opposite of the effects of any war.

Thus, we should stop using any notion of “user fees” as they make no sense for motorists nor for cyclists nor for pedestrians. Public transportation should be toll free just as roads are now and it should get a lot more funding as well.

To do any less would be to treat non-motorists as second class citizens which should require a constitutional amendment.

Bright Light Cycling

April 2, 2013

I know that this is a cliche, but the future for cycling in San Diego is moving so fast, I literally can not keep up.

While I did try to be the cutting edge, the most radical, Utopian, and insane of all advocates just like one of my heroes Eisenhower who created the interstate system:

“The cost of construction has been estimated at $425 billion (in 2006 dollars),[4] making it the “largest public works program since the Pyramids”.[5]”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

Wow, sounds kind of unbelievable, something that is never going to be built.

Oh, right, you ride on it all the time.

But at one time it was a dream.

Unfortunately, I no longer feel that I can dream big anymore.

Not because we have Quisling advocates who second guess all our decisions based on their phony degrees and person riding styles. (Though they do still exist.) Not because we have intractable political leaders who are cowardly. The second is not true. Our politicians have showed both courage and leadership, and they are a long cry away from the people I tried (and mostly failed) to interview a few years ago.

We have some of the best leaders in the country. We have money. We have the will.

The only problem is that my dreams are gone! I have to dream bigger.

This is the best problem to have! It’s like choosing between two dream jobs.

I have a great deal of gratitude for those who worked so very hard both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras for our greatness.

Anyone who reads bike blogs or listens to the radio in San Diego knows that things are going very, very well.

My only fear is that the same Quisling who very publicly stab us in the back over and over again will NOT TAKE CREDIT FOR OUR SUCCESS. IF YOU DON’T HAVE SOME CRAZY VISION, EISENHOWER STYLE, THAT PEOPLE LAUGH AT YOU ARE NOT PART OF OUR SUCCESS.

IF YOU THINK THAT WE WILL GET LESS IF WE ASK FOR MORE, NEED TO MOVE CAREFULLY, OR THAT CHANGE WILL TAKE DECADES, YOU ARE NOT PART OF OUR SUCCESS. IF YOU’RE HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS, YOU ARE NOT PART OF OUR SUCCESS.

If you were balls out insane and thought up crazy ideas and pestered the city with them, then you are my hero. Thanks for the persistence, your time, for daring to piss people off, speaking the truth, bravery in the face of laughter and derision.